John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) – Incheon International Airport (ICN)
STD: 2:00 PM ATD: 02:06 PM GMT-4
STA: 5:20 PM ATA: 04:54PM GMT+9
Flight Number: KE 82
Flight Date: May 26, 2017
Class of Service: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat Type: Flatbed Seats
Seat Pitch: 74 inches
Seat Width: 21.6 inches
Meals: Lunch after takeoff, Dinner mid-flight, snacks available during flight. Complimentary alcohol (including at bar)
In-Seat Outlets: Yes
IFE: Yes, Personal TVs at every seat
Myanmar has long been on my bucket list. Perhaps it was growing up with my half-Burmese best friend, or maybe its the mystery and intrigue that follows a country that closes its borders to international borders. Either way, I’d finally decided that this was the year I was making my way over. There are a handful of ways to fly into Myanmar (formerly known as Burma during its colonial days), but most international flights will send you through Yangon (RGN). We were bound for Bagan, so that required a connecting flight from Yangon. More on that later. Our first leg on the flight was JFK-ICN on Korean Air (KE), an airline I’d long been meaning to fly, before flying into Bangkok. (I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t fly directly into RGN – that’s another story for another time.) Since Delta and KE had been playing nice as of late, I’d found a DL codeshare flight operated by Korean Air that fit our trip timeline(!).
Korean Air flies out of JFK’s Terminal 1, which may be my least favorite terminal at JFK for a number of reasons. Perhaps its the small size of the terminal, or the always-lengthy security lines. Or perhaps its the mostly underwhelming SkyTeam lounges that reside in this terminal.
I was surprised to find the check-in counter busy, despite the numerous counters open for First Class and Prestige Class. Brian and I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, so I wasn’t too worried about missing our flight. After a couple minutes of waiting, a new counter opened up and we were checked in promptly. At the counter they had a print out of the A380 cabin to assist passengers in making their seat selections (since we had already picked our seats when we purchased our tickets, we didn’t have much use for this, though a nice touch for less eager flyers). The ticketing agent was very helpful and made sure we knew where to find the KAL lounge once we moved got past security.
Though I was excited for the flight (since Korean Air has such a great reputation in terms of service), I was less thrilled about using the KAL lounge at this airport (or at any airport, really).
After a quick pitstop at the lounge (which was, no surprise, packed, thanks to this departing Korean Air flight, along with a similarly timed Aeroflot flight), it was finally time to board!
There didn’t seem to be a different in boarding lane between First Class, Prestige Class and Sky Priority, which was a little confusing, but otherwise the process was fairly smooth. The line moved quickly as the gate agents checked our passports. As Prestige Class passengers, we were directed to a separate bridge to board, as this would shoot us directly into the second level of the plane.
As we got on the flight, we were greeted by some very friendly Flight Attendants (FAs) who pointed us in the direction of our seats.
As we made our way to our row (19), the first thing I noticed? The seat pitch! Tons of room between the seat and the one in front of it. Unlike the Herringbone, Reverse Herringbone, or Staggered configurations a lot of airlines use, where the leg portion of the seat flattens out under the seat in front of of it, there’s enough room for the seats to lay flat without the seats tucking in under each other.
The seats themselves were fairly roomy and overall pretty comfortable. While I have no qualms with the comfort of the seat (while upright, at least), I am generally a little disappointed that there have been no upgrades to the A380s, given the apex suites they have on their 747s on the same route (sigh).
The entire upper deck is made up of Business Class seats, including a small bar area in the front, and a larger bar area in the back. The cabin was set up in a 2-2-2 configuration, so if you’re traveling in Prestige Class solo, I’d recommend a seat in the middle rather than on the window side, in order to ensure aisle access.
If you are traveling with a companion, you definitely want to sit on the window side. There are three compartments right up against the window, where you can store your personal item. It’s definitely large enough to stick a laptop if you’d like to keep it handy on the flight (though there isn’t any wifi, so I didn’t have much to work on) – I kept my large purse in it, and it fit with no problem.
Each seat’s foot rest had a lip that flipped out. It was most useful when the seat was in recline mode.
Each seat came with the standard Business Class seat trimmings, including an international outlet, seat controller, USB port, reading light, and PTV controller.
The PTVs were nicely sized (15.4-inches according to Korean Air’s website), though the screens couldn’t be adjusted up or down to account for the glare when the seat is in the reclined position. Between the two TVs was shoe storage, which was very much appreciated (though admittedly unnecessary given the amount of space). The space between the seat and the TVs was fantastic. I could stretch my legs out while seated and still have a full foot between my legs and the seat in front of me. With that much space, of course, every seat came with cabin slippers.
Shortly after sitting, the FAs came by handing out amenity kits. The kit came with an eye mask, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a shoehorn, a brush/comb combo, Davi lip balm, Davi eye gel, and Davi Le Grand Cru face cream. All standard stuff, though I was hoping the kit would come with socks (since I forgot to pack some in my purse).
As we settled in, the FAs came by with some pre-flight drinks (champagne, water, and orange juice) and honey roasted peanuts.
Not long after, we pushed back from our gate at about 2:10 PM and began our lengthy taxi to the runway. The pilot came on 15 minutes later to apologize for the delay but let us know we should be taking off in about 10 minutes.
As I settled in, I pulled out the menu, which was tucked by the TV, out, as I noticed the FAs going around the cabin taking orders. I was pretty interested in finding out about their beer selection (noted in the menu as “Selected Beers of the World”), though I later found that it meant Budweiser, which was a disappointment.
I was pretty excited about the menu, which included Bibimbap for lunch. I was a little interested in the timing of their meal serving, as this flight was about 14 hours long. I presumed lunch would be served shortly after take off (it was), though wasn’t sure when dinner would be.
Thirty minutes into our flight, they offered hot towels in preparation for the meal service. Lunch was served shortly after. First up: the Pre-Drink Service of roasted bell pepper with cream cheese. An odd pairing, I know, but the saltiness of the cheese, mixed with the sweetness of the bell pepper and the balsamic vinegar made for a delightful starter.
Our Flight Attendant came by to offer us drinks – the usual Coke product soda line up, wine, beer, and water. Refills were attentively offered throughout dinner.
Up next: the seared prawn and scallop appetizer. Both were well cooked and delightful.
Brian and I both opted for the Bibimbap and while I swore I snapped a few pictures of it, I managed to have lost the photos. Take my word for it, it’s a worthy meal to order onboard. The vegetables were fresh, the portion was just right, and for those who prefer it spicy, the paste added just the right punch to the dish.
After the main meal, the FAs came by with the cheese and dessert cart. Today’s offering was camembert, chaumes, and blue cheese, all of which were pleasantly savory. I didn’t love the crackers served with the cheese (they were too thick), but otherwise, I enjoyed my prepared-on-site cheese platter. I would have skipped dessert after the cheese platter, but I found that they were serving my favorite haagen dazs flavor – belgian chocolate!
After dinner, the FAs came by to draw the window shades so that people could get some sleep. The cabin lights were dimmed and the curtains to the galleys were shut so people could get some rest.
We weren’t particularly tired, so Brian and I headed to the back of the plane to check out the bar. The bar was a nice area, though the space could have been better used. There was room for 3 people to sit on a bench, and a couple areas for people to lean on next to the bar, but no room to gather around the bar itself. The area could probably hold 5-6 at most (though I hope all people sitting are friendly, otherwise, the space would be somewhat tight). There was a lot of “blank” space in the middle that could probably fit a couple more people standing – though with nothing to lean or grab onto, I don’t think anyone was going to stand in that space.
A TV was mounted on one side of the lounge area, which displayed the air show and statistics about our flight (time to destination, distance to Seoul, etc). The Flight Attendant (–Bar Attendant?) had left out some snacks on the bar, which included some sandwiches and bite-sized pastries.
As we sat down, we were offered the Celestial Bar Menu, which offered a number of Absolut Vodka-based drinks (one guess who the liquor sponsor is).
Brian had the Rice K Punch (which had bits of rice in it!) while I had the Absolut Pear Deluxe. The drinks were made to order and served pretty quickly. While both drinks were tasty, it was clear that the FA who prepared them was no mixologist. Even so, the offering was a nice addition to the in-flight experience.
After a drink we made our way back to our seats to give other passengers (who were standing sort of awkwardly near the bar area… but not in it) a chance to enjoy the space.
I reclined my seat to the flat position and got ready for bed. The bed reclined flat at the press of a button, though honestly it didn’t feel entirely flat. Not sure if it’s the adjustable headrest that made it feel that way, but it did feel like there was a bit of a recline. Another negative – I didn’t love the tiny pillow and thin blanket. While seats are expensive investments, plush pillows and thicker blankets are much easier to replace. I’d love to see these upgraded.
A few hours later, I woke up to the brightly lit cabin and the bustling noise of galley carts. I checked my phone – it was 10:30 PM Eastern time, about 8.5 hours into the flight, and they were serving dinner. I was hoping dinner would be served closer to the end of the flight – at this point I had only gotten 4-5 hours of sleep. Either way, I’m not one to pass up a meal.
Dinner started with a garden salad with baby mozzerella. Overall a good start to the meal, though it was mostly greens – I could have done with more tomatoes and mozzarella.
The mains were served next. Brian had the Beef Galbijjim – a braised beef dish. He liked his meal, though wouldn’t have ordered it again. Beef was cooked well, but it just wasn’t the king of thing he likes. I had the Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup, which I overall enjoyed, though I could have used some soy sauce with it (and frankly, more shrimp dumplings). Just a preference of course, overall the dish was good and I would have it again if given the option.
The meal was topped off with a serving of fresh fruit, which was incredibly sweet. The FAs came by again as we were polishing off our plates to offer more fruit if we were so inclined.
The beverage service with dinner was not quite as attentive as that with lunch. At lunch, we were offered an array of drinks to begin our meal, as well as refills throughout. During dinner, we were offered water, coffee, and tea at the beginning of the meal service and again at the end – though nothing in between.
As the kitchen carts were wheeled away, the lights were dimmed so that people could go back to sleep for a few hours before landing. After dinner, I popped into the lavatory to brush my teeth. I noticed the one I walked into had a “women priority” sign outside, which made more sense when I walked in as there was a changing table above the toilet.
The washroom was fairly standard otherwise, and came with a few amenities – razors, Jurlique hand lotion, and mouth wash (a must on a 14 hour flight). During the flight I noticed the FAs pop in every now and then to make sure the toiletries were fully stocked. In another lav I popped into mid-flight, similar toiletries were stocked, though came with a Jurlique-branded hydrating mist.
We had about 5 hours left on the flight at this point, so I tried to fall back asleep (with little success). I flipped through the TV to see if there was anything worth watching.
The In-Flight Entertainment system was pretty easy to use. The “Hollywood Hits” section seemed to have the most recent American releases. None of the movies were of interest to me, so I eventually fell back asleep.
A few hours later, I was awoken by the noise of the FAs making their way through the cabin, asking passengers to prop their seats back in the upright position. As I lifted the window shades for landing, I could see the islands off the coast of Incheon as we made our descent.
We touched down shortly after 4:50 PM local time and taxied for a few minutes. Classical music was played over the sound system as we made our way to our gate. We were parked for a few minutes before the jet bridge was finally pulled up for deplaning.
PS – if you are so inclined, be sure to watch landing (or take off!) through the tail camera. You can also observe your flight through cameras perched on the nose or the belly of the plane.
The flight experience was a pretty good one overall, I’d say. The seats aren’t the top of the line, and I was a little disappointed by the tiny pillow and thin blanket, but the seat pitch, the great food, and the fantastic service made up for it. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Korean Air again, although hopefully next time I’ll luck out and end up on their 747 to experience the Apex suites!
Check in: 9/10 –Seamless, friendly and informative.
Lounge: 6/10 – Considering how fantastic KE’s in-flight service is, the lounge is terribly underwhelming (not to mention overcrowded).
Boarding: 10/10 – Separated boarding for different classes to allow for seamless boarding, plus a direct ramp to the top deck.
Food: 8.5/10 – Overall, food was pretty great, although there were a couple items that could have been more tasty.
Seat: 8.5/10 – Fantastic seat pitch, but seat was not the most comfortable and small pillow and thin blankets were underwhelming.
Cleanliness of aircraft: 10/10 – As with most Asian carriers, absolutely spotless. Bonus – FAs are quick to pop into the lavatories to ensure the toiletries are well-stocked.
Crew: 10/10 – Helpful, polite, and eager to be of service during the entire flight.
IFE: 8/10 – No shortage of recent blockbusters, but the TV selection was lacking.
Elite recognition: 7/10 – Nothing above the standard “Thanks for being a SkyTeam Elite”.
Flight Timeliness: 10/10 – Slight delay during take off but landed timely.